A friend’s play was in an evening of short one-acts in a tiny little fringe space in Bushwick this weekend, and being the good-hearted soul that I am I naturally went to go see it. Aside from wanting to support a friend, I was curious to explore the Brooklyn theater scene, especially as a Brooklynite myself. I’d never had an excuse to visit the neighborhood of Bushwick before, and I figured this was precisely the excuse I needed (it’s become something of a pizza mecca these days, you know). I left my Bath Beach apartment a little after 4pm that afternoon, to make my way across my home borough of the city. The curtain was at 8pm – obviously I’d given myself enough time to arrive at my destination at a nice, leisurely pace.
(I’ll give other Brooklynites a minute at this point to chuckle ruefully.)
I encountered my first obstacle right away, on my local subway line – the D train at my stop was only stopping in one direction. I couldn’t go towards Manhattan or Atlantic Avenue, ruling out most of the rest of the city for me. Fortunately, I knew this in advance, and had an alternative, albeit a roundabout one. I took the D train in the other direction, all the way out to Coney Island, to then catch the Q train going in the opposite direction.
That direction was towards the Dekalb Avenue stop. Unfortunately, I’d only looked at my directions in a cursory manner, and made the mistaking that the DeKalb Avenue stop I needed to arrive at was the one on the Q line. Alas, Bushwick is much further to the east, and the MTA has two subway stop which bear the DeKalb name. I needed the one on the L line.
That wasn’t as big of a setback as it might have seemed, since I could simply wait for the next Q train, and then take that to the transit hub where I could change over to the L train, and then head east to Bushwick. The trouble is, that hub is Union Square, in Manhattan. That’s right, going by the New York City subway, there is no way to go from the part of Brooklyn where I live to the part of Brooklyn I was trying to go without first going to Manhattan.
The result of all this? My commute from one part of the borough to another – only a few scant miles as the proverbial crow flies – took two and a half hours. Which still gave me plenty of time to grab dinner and see the show, of course. But still.
There’s always a lot of talk about building up the Brooklyn theater scene, as the costs of producing things in Manhattan (to say nothing of living there) becomes ever more prohibitive. But that begs the question – just where in Brooklyn would this be? And the related question – could I possibly get to it? After all, the Williamsburg-Bushwick section of Northern Brooklyn requires the nightmarish commute I’ve just described for me. Heck, it’s not even easy to get to Bay Ridge from where I am – there’s a huge golf course in the way, and no direct train route, so I need to rely on busses. The areas around Park Slope or Carroll Gardens already serve as hubs of theatrical activity – but they’re not easy to get to from where I am OR from Williamsburg-Bushwick.
I fear that championing the cause of local independent theater in New York City requires thinking extremely local. Block-by-block local. And logistically, that’s incredibly difficult to make work. As difficult as a New York City commute, even.